President’s Corner: Four get deserved spotlight at commencement
Our commencement ceremonies this weekend will spotlight four people who have made significant contributions to the University, city, region and state.
Kenny Alexander, the mayor of Norfolk and an Old Dominion University alum, will address the graduates of the College of Arts and Letters, the Strome College of Business and the College of Health Sciences on Saturday afternoon.
He was elected mayor in 2016, becoming the first Monarch to hold that position. Under his leadership, the partnership between Old Dominion and the city has strengthened. In an unprecedented arrangement, we have agreed that the expert who will become the executive director of our new Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience will also serve as the city's senior resilience strategist.
Earlier in his career, Mayor Alexander was a member of the House of Delegates for 10 years and the Senate for four years. Mayor Alexander is also president of Metropolitan Funeral Service.
Mayor Alexander received his bachelor's degree in political science from Old Dominion in 1990. "It was hard," he recalled in Monarch magazine, "but there was a lot of support, not only from the faculty and staff but also from the students."
Aubrey Layne will speak on Saturday morning to the graduates of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, the Darden College of Education & Professional Studies and the College of Sciences.
He was state secretary of transportation from 2014 to 2018 and has been secretary of finance since 2018. As a Republican working for two consecutive Democratic administrations, Secretary Layne has embraced the values of bipartisanship and openness in Richmond.
Secretary Layne, who received his M.B.A. from Old Dominion in 1997, has had a multilayered career that extends beyond state government. Early in his career, he worked as a CPA. He was president of Great Atlantic Properties. He also served as president of An Achievable Dream Academy in Newport News, which empowers at-risk students and which continues to send graduates to Old Dominion.
In addition to our speakers, we will award honorary degrees to two champions of Old Dominion:
Carolyn K. Barry has immersed herself in art for most of her life. At the Chrysler Museum of Art, she served as a docent for 35 years and a board trustee for eight years. There, she developed a passion for glass art, which has benefited our entire community.
In 2009, Mrs. Barry helped organize a glass exhibit at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, bringing the city recognition. In 2018, she and her husband, Richard, a former rector of Old Dominion's Board of Visitors, gave ODU more than 300 objects from their collection - from glass works to antique dolls - to create the Barry Art Museum.
Mrs. Barry regularly leads tours there and serves as vice president of the Museum Foundation.
Her interests are wide-ranging. She began her career teaching math, including college algebra at Old Dominion. For the past 21 years, she has taught a weekly class in something much different - yoga.
Patricia W. Perry's first association with ODU was as a nontraditional student. A mother of three, she enrolled in Old Dominion to finish the psychology degree she had begun two decades before at the University of Maryland. She graduated with honors in 1989.
Mrs. Perry vowed to "give something back in return for all the University did for me." She has fulfilled that promise many times over.
Mrs. Perry served on Old Dominion's Board of Visitors from 1997 to 2001. She and her husband, Douglas, endowed the John and Kate Broderick Opportunity Scholarship for honors students from Virginia as well as a scholarship to benefit graduates of the Achievable Dream Academy. And Old Dominion renamed its library and Honors College after the Perrys in recognition of their support.
They have aided several other institutions, including the Chrysler Museum, St. Mary's Home and Tidewater Community College, and received Norfolk's First Citizen and Downtowner of the Year Awards.
As a group, these four people exemplify the vision, values and character that I am confident our graduates will reflect as they step out into the world.